Outsider Art Fair

Italian and American Outsider Artists:
Italians: Sidival Fila – Vera Girivi – Elisabetta Zangrandi
Americans: Janet Sobel – Ashley Shapiro – Jayne County

James Barron Art is pleased to exhibit at the Outsider Art Fair for our third year. Our presentation includes untrained Italian and American artists, reflecting the gallery’s overall exploration of Italian and American art. From Italy, we will exhibit the work of Sidival Fila, a Franciscan monk, who has shown extensively in Europe but never in America, and Elisabetta Zangrandi and Vera Girivi, in their first exhibitions of their work anywhere. Of American artists, we will exhibit a group of previously unseen Janet Sobel works from the collection of her granddaughter, Ashley Shapiro. We will also show works by Ashley Shapiro, who follows in the artistic tradition of her grandmother, and Jayne County, best known as punk rock’s first openly transgender performer, who has created artworks for over four decades.

“Perhaps there is no greater pleasure for an art dealer than to present work by artists who have never been seen before. That is precisely the case with two of the artists in our Outsider Art Fair exhibition. A third has never exhibited in America before,” says James Barron. “One of the goals of our gallery is to break down the distinction between trained and untrained artists and to examine the correlation between Italian and American art. Our exhibition accomplishes both of these goals. We are excited to share these works with our audience.”

Sidival Fila
Born 1962, lives in Rome, Italy

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Sidival Fila is a Franciscan monk living in a monastery in the Roman Forum, overlooking the Coliseum. Born in Brazil, Fila has devoted himself to religion for over three decades. In 2006, he began making art incorporating ancient and contemporary fabric and textiles to create intricate woven and sewn compositions. Fila has had numerous solo exhibitions in Italy, Europe, and South America, but has never shown in America before. He has shown at the Venice Biennale, and his work is included in important private and institutional collections, including the Collection of Contemporary Art at the Vatican Museum, Rome. As a monk, Fila has taken a vow of poverty. A large portion of his proceeds go to help pay for children’s schooling in impoverished areas throughout the world. He has received countless letters of gratitude from students, as well as report cards showing their grades. A small portion of his proceeds goes to the maintenance of his monastery.

“Art must elevate reality and take it towards transcendence, not necessarily in a religious sense. It must rather indicate its significance beyond the matter, beyond our five senses allow us to perceive: its being, enclosed in its most eloquent dimension.” – Sidival Fila

Elisabetta Zangrandi
Born 1960, lives in Verona, Italy

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Elisabetta Zangrandi, born in Verona, Italy, spent her childhood summers in the country with her grandparents, cultivating her natural curiosity and love of nature. Zangrandi’s love of art was ignited when she learned to embroider at age 7. She now creates paintings of fantastical landscapes and stylized figures, and continues to express her love of nature by spending time outdoors, gardening, painting the walkways at her home and finding rocks, which she paints. This is the first exhibition of Zangrandi’s work outside of Verona.

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“I have always painted, from when I was young, on any material, rocks, bottles, pumpkins, wooden crates. Last year I started painting my garden, outdoors. I felt the need to paint every day. I felt good, I could express myself with painting.” – Elisabetta Zangrandi\

Vera Girivi
born in 1961, lives in Genoa, Italy

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Vera Girivi lives and works in Genova, Italy. She started painting as a girl, and resumed painting once again six years ago. She has no artistic training. After filling all the walls of her home with her paintings, her children insisted that she start to sell her paintings to make space for her new work. She paints in her home, at a large wooden kitchen table, amidst the disturbances of domestic life. She’s also a passionate gardener, and flowers enter into her work, adding to the decorative element of graphic wallpaper and bold swaths of color. As is the case with Elisabetta Zangrandi, Instagram has brought her a worldwide audience, whereas before, her work would have been seen by few. As a person and in her work, she likes silence and concreteness. She is excited that her exhibition at the Outsider Art Fair is her first ever, and she relishes the opportunity for her work to be seen by our fair audience.

"Clothes are unimportant to me. You put on clothing and you appear, you hide your defects. What’s important for me is what’s beneath the clothes: a beautiful woman or a heavyset one, it makes no difference." – Vera Girivi

Janet Sobel
Born 1893, Ukraine; died 1968, New Jersey

An immigrant from Ukraine, Janet Sobel began creating art at the age of 43, when she borrowed her son’s art supplies to experiment with painting. She was a Brooklyn housewife and mother of five, but managed to find time to satisfy her creative drive, often painting on the backs of found materials including letters, envelopes and cardboard, and experimenting with different materials and tools, including blowing paint with her vacuum hose. Her work quickly gained the support of some of the major dealers, critics, and curators in the New York art world, including Sidney Janis and Peggy Guggenheim. Later, William Rubin initiated MoMA’s acquisition of a painting as well as one for his personal collection, which he later donated to MoMA. Importantly, Clement Greenberg brought Jackson Pollock to Sobel’s 1946 exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, so she is part of the formation of artists surrounding Pollock and the development of his Drip paintings.

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Sobel’s work is included in many important private collections and institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR. There has recently been an enormous revival of interest in Sobel’s work, which was included in major museum exhibitions Abstract Expressionism at Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, and Outliers and American Vanguard Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., which traveled to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Our current show builds on our previous exhibitions of Sobel’s work, including Janet Sobel: Revisiting the Drip, at James Barron Art / Kent / April – May 2016, and two previous exhibitions of Sobel’s work at the Outsider Art Fair.

“Gramma blew on paint to move it around the canvas and let me blow, as well. She moved paint with her fingers and with her vacuum cleaner hoses. It was a while before I realized the depth of her courage. She worked without giving thought to what she should be doing, what someone else had done, or what others thought of her work.” – Ashley Shapiro on Janet Sobel

Ashley Shapiro
Born 1939, lives in Indiana

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As a child, Ashley Shapiro had a special relationship with her grandmother, Janet Sobel. She watched her paint, she heard her innermost dreams, and gained an intimacy and insight into her grandmother’s work. Drawing on this pivotal experience, Shapiro incorporates her grandmother’s vibrant use of color into her work, while maintaining her own unique voice. Like Janet Sobel, Shapiro began with a more figurative style, which quickly moved towards pure abstraction. Her canvases use color and gesture to communicate a range of emotions. Her work is in several important private collections, as well as at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

“Gramma and I connected spiritually and I feel that I've carried her essence into my own life and art. Gramma loved the color blue. She talked about it like it was alive. At a certain point, I began to paint with an emphasis on blue and the way blue speaks and sings to me.” – Ashley Shapiro

Jayne County
Born 1947, lives in Georgia

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Best known as a punk rock’s first openly transgender performer, Jayne County’s artistic expression spans visual art, theatrical performances, and film roles, in addition to musical performances. County, who has no formal training, views her art as an emotional outlet, as well as a catalyst for creation instead of destruction. County’s work defies categorization: her works on paper and canvas marry fantasy, political rage, beauty, Egyptian iconography, and ambiguous sexual references. Much of County’s work offers a glimpse into her fantasies, which are populated by creatures from other worlds and times; and her obsessions, manifested in repeated motifs. County’s career spans five decades, and she has lived and worked in New York, London, and Berlin. She currently lives in Georgia.

“She broke all the boundaries and created her own. She never would be boxed in; she just did what she wanted to do.” – Tony Zanetta on Jayne County

Outsider Art Fair
Metropolitan Pavilion
125 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
January 17 – 20, 2018